Conceived above a saloon, delivered into this world by a masked man identified by his heavily sedated mother as Captain Video, raised by a kindly West Virginian woman, a mild-mannered former reporter with modest delusions of grandeur and no tolerance of idiots and the intellectually dishonest.


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Friday, March 12, 2004

New frontiers in science...

You have to admire this guy. I hope some company's smart enough to hire him.

Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass

          Abstract: The exponential dependence of resistivity on temperature in germanium is found to be a great big lie. My careful theoretical modeling and painstaking experimentation reveal 1) that my equipment is crap, as are all the available texts on the subject and 2) that this whole exercise was a complete waste of my time.

Introduction

          Electrons in germanium are confined to well-defined energy bands that are separated by "forbidden regions" of zero charge-carrier density. You can read about it yourself if you want to, although I don't recommend it. You'll have to wade through an obtuse, convoluted discussion about considering an arbitrary number of non-coupled harmonic-oscillator potentials and taking limits and so on. The upshot is that if you heat up a sample of germanium, electrons will jump from a non-conductive energy band to a conductive one, thereby creating a measurable change in resistivity. This relation between temperature and resistivity can be shown to be exponential in certain temperature regimes by waving your hands and chanting "to first order".

Experiment procedure

      I sifted through the box of germanium crystals and chose the one that appeared to be the least cracked. Then I soldered wires onto the crystal in the spots shown in figure 2b of Lab Handout 32. Do you have any idea how hard it is to solder wires to germanium? I'll tell you: real goddamn hard. The solder simply won't stick, and you can forget about getting any of the grad students in the solid state labs to help you out.
      Once the wires were in place, I attached them as appropriate to the second-rate equipment I scavenged from the back of the lab, none of which worked properly. I soon wised up and swiped replacements from the well-stocked research labs. This is how they treat undergrads around here: they give you broken tools and then don't understand why you don't get any results.

 
Fig. 1: Check this shit out.
      In order to control the temperature of the germanium, I attached the crystal to a copper rod, the upper end of which was attached to a heating coil and the lower end of which was dipped in a thermos of liquid nitrogen. Midway through the project, the thermos began leaking. That's right: I pay a cool ten grand a quarter to come here, and yet they can't spare the five bucks to ensure that I have a working thermos.

Results

      Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That's bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself over the course of two weeks. And this was not a leisurely two weeks, either; I busted my ass day and night in order to provide you with nothing but the best data possible. Now, let's look a bit more closely at this data, remembering that it is absolutely first-rate. Do you see the exponential dependence? I sure don't. I see a bunch of crap.
      Christ, this was such a waste of my time.
      Banking on my hopes that whoever grades this will just look at the pictures, I drew an exponential through my noise. I believe the apparent legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that I used a complicated computer program to make the fit. I understand this is the same process by which the top quark was discovered.

Conclusion

      Going into physics was the biggest mistake of my life. I should've declared CS. I still wouldn't have any women, but at least I'd be rolling in cash.

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With apologies to E.A. Poe

(I wish I knew the author, so I could give proper attribution. This is a gem.)

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high, and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bedsheets,
Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets,
Having reached the bottom line, I took a floppy from the drawer.
Typing with a steady hand, I then invoked the SAVE command,
And waited for the disk to store,
Only this and nothing more.

Deep into the monitor peering, long I sat there wond'ring, fearing,
Doubting, while the disk kept churning, turning yet to churn some
more. "Save!" I said, "You cursed mother! Save my data from before!"
One thing did the phosphorous answer, only this and nothing more,
Just "Choose Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

Was this some occult illusion? Some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices undesired, ones I'd never faced before.
Carefully, I weighed the choices, as the disk made impish noises,
The cursor flashed, insistent, waiting, baiting me to type some more,
Clearly I must press a key, choosing one and nothing more,
From "Choose Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

With my fingers pale and trembling slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee, timidly I pressed a key,
But on the screen there still persisted, words appearing as before,
Ghastly, grim, they blinked and taunted, haunted, as my patience wore,
Saying "Choose Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

I tried to catch the chips off-guard. I pressed again, but twice as
hard I pleaded with the cursed machine. I begged and cried and then I
swore. Now in desperation, trying random combinations,
Still there came the incantation, just as senseless as before.
Cursor blinking, angrily winking, blinking nonsense as before.
Reading "Choose Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

There I sat distraught, exhausted, by my own machine accosted,
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw a dreadful sight; a lightning bolt cut through the
night, a gasp of horror overtook me, shook me to my very core,
The lightning zapped my previous data, lost and gone forevermore.
Not even "Choose, Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

To this day I do not know the place to which lost data goes,
What demonic nether world is wrought where data will be stored,
Beyond the reach of mortal souls, beyond the ether into black holes,
But sure as there's C, Pascal, Lotus, Ashton-Tate and more,
You will one day be left to wander, lost on some Plutonian shore,
To "Choose, Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Amen

Absolutely Totally Interdenominational School Prayer:

Dear God, presuming there is a God, and if not, dear consciousness or spirit of individual self-worth, assuming that any of you are dear, please watch over this class and our school, presuming that you are the type who watches over things, and that you are capable of doing so, and that you care much what you are watching. Please help us to be better people, that is, assuming that we aren't good enough people already, and that there is some way you could help us if you wanted to. Please help us learn, if learning isn't evil and presuming we haven't achieved or haven't been endowed already with a state of perfect enlightenment. Please protect us from guns, aside from the fact that we have a Constitutional right to bear them, and from drugs, unless they play a part in our religious ceremonies, and from natural disasters, unless of course, wiping us out is part of your divine plan which we cannot possibly understand. Please help us win our next sport and academic competitions and to make the other team look really stupid while doing so. May we also please all be popular and get good grades on our next report card? Also, could you like do something about that stuff they put on the mashed potatoes every Wednesday? Thank you. Hare Hare,
f'getaboutit,
Peace, Om,
Hallelujah, Shalom,
whatever.

(Thanks to Grace McGarvie on alt.quotations)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Watch your headcount

In December, the CEO of a California-based high tech firm told me that "there is no amount of overtime that we will not pay, there is no level of temporary services that we will not use, there is no level of outsourcing or offshoring that we will not do, in order to prevent us from having to hire one new, permanent worker in the U.S."

As I travel around the country, meeting with business leaders, I hear similar, though less succinct thoughts in almost every sector and every part of the country. U.S. wages, health care, and other benefit costs have gotten so high- and the press by investors for high stock prices is so great- that the premium is on wringing every last bit of work out of as few employees as possible, to do anything but incur the costs of adding permanent employees.

This guy has an interesting take on the issue. Must reading.

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Drugged and torqued off

I'm learning grandparents have the same problem as parents with small children... the Constant Cold.

Kids are walking petri dishes, distributing in their wakes virulent mutant forms of assorted illnesses, tweaked just enough by their tiny immune systems to turn an adult's upper respiratory system into a yellow and green-tinged mass of agglutinative putrescence.

The missus and my mother were also exposed to my granddaughter last week, but I suspect they've developed some specific resistance. With me in Chicago most of the time, my immune system just isn't being challenged enough. Now I understand what happened to the Hawaiians when Captain Cook stopped by for a visit.

It's 1 am Chicago time and I can't sleep, because the pseudoephedrine that's keeping twenty percent of one sinus partially open is also keeping me wide awake. So I'm passing the time by blogging and scraping lung tissue off the walls of my apartment.

I have to go to San Diego next week. Given the strong anti-smoking sentiment of Californians, I'm going to try to kick the habit before I leave. This cold and bronchitis have given me a temporary aversion to cigarettes, and hopefully the pangs of nicotine withdrawal will be masked by my general inability to breathe.

Then I saw on the news today that the government says the number one health problem in the country is obesity. Great. Knowing how health-conscious they are in the Golden State, they'll probably ban eating in restaurants as well as smoking.

Now is it feed a cold? Starve a cold? Whatever. There's a box of Sugar Smacks (actually "Smacks"... Kellogg's dropped the "Sugar" because it wasn't PC) sitting on the counter with my name on it.

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Sunday, March 07, 2004

The wonders of technology

The only thing that makes my frequent trips between Pittsburgh and Chicago tolerable is Greater Pitt.

Aside from a wide selection of reasonably priced food emporiums, specialty stores and restaurants where you can actually smoke, Pittsburgh also has the most efficient and friendly security folk.

Now Greater Pitt has FlyPittsburgh, a free wireless Internet service. I read about it in the Post-Gazette online last week, and finally ordered a Linksys wireless network card for my laptop from amazon.com.

So here I sit in the food court, munching on lo mein and barbecued pork, happily surfing the web on a broadband connection. I have my workstation at the office in Chicago up in one window, the United flight status display in another, the Air Traffic Control System Command site in a third, my email in a fourth, and Blogger in a fifth.

Life would be a lot more pleasant if all airports followed Pittsburgh's example and made their facilities traveler-friendly.

But it doesn't do much for my homesickness. I mean, now I not only hate leaving my home in Pittsburgh, I even hate leaving the freaking airport.

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Copyright © 1987-2014 by Kevin G. Barkes
All rights reserved.
Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The kgb@kgb.com e-mail address is now something other than kgb@kgb.com saga.
kgbreport.com used to be kgb.com until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up kgb.com and adopting kgbreport.com created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the kgb.com domain name in 1993, and had since that time used kgb@kgb.com as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that kgb@kgb.com was no longer kgb@kgb.com but rather kgbarkes@gmail.com which is longer than kgb@kgb.com and more letters to type than kgb@kgb.com and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than kgb@kgb.com but actually just as functional as kgb@kgb.com? I sent e-mails from the kgb@kgb.com address to just about everybody I knew who had used kgb@kgb.com in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the kgb@kgb.com change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which kgb@kgb.com was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for kgb@kgb.com would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that kgb@kgb.com no longer is the kgb@kgb.com they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. kgb@kgb.com. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...

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Crystal Methodist


Laugh while you can, monkey-boy


I am a professional. Do not try this at home.


I canna change the laws of physics


As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
(as a matter of fact, i AM the boss of you.)


Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence


I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.


Left wing liberal nut job


Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.


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If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.


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